The council’s plan, adopted in March 2014, demonstrates a clear attempt to house Travellers in standard social housing, even after 14 families requested group housing and one requested a halting site.
Louth’s Traveller accommodation scheme has been thrown into sharp focus after 23 families were removed from a halting site by the council, citing health and safety concerns in the wake of the Carrickmines fire last year.
Recently, the council stated that a “a review of the Louth Traveller Accommodation Programme would commence, with a view to providing Traveller-specific accommodation, specifically group housing”.
However, as noted in the Traveller Accommodation Strategy, the council has been aware for some time that families were requesting Traveller-specific accommodation.
The document notes that in September 2013, 14 families requested group housing.
The council determined it would accommodate three families in a group housing scheme in Dundalk, “through casual vacancies”.
For the remaining 11, the council noted: “In view of their short time living in the County Louth area and their previous experience in group housing it is not proposed at this time to make any plans to provide group housing.”
The document states that apart from the families noted above, and one other family that requested halting site accommodation, some 140 Traveller families were identified as needing accommodation.
“Since most Travellers in the area are waiting for social housing, it is difficult to estimate the number of families who will be allocated social housing during the lifetime of this programme,” the council said in a statement.
Although significant funds are available from the Department of the Environment to help accommodate Travellers, in 2014 and 2015, Louth was not allocated any money for Traveller specific accommodation.
The previous two years it received €150,000 and €155,000. Councils are allocated money based on perceived need, which is in turn based on the council’s assessment of that need, and proposals submitted to the department.
A study on Traveller housing published by National Traveller MABS in 2012, concluded that the choice by many Travellers to live a nomadic way of life is “deeply hindered by the non-existence of transient sites in Ireland”.
The study, An overview of housing policy for Travellers in Ireland by Elizabeth Colhoun found that legislation, including the Roads Act 1993 and Section 24 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2002 — which makes it illegal to trespass on land with objects, such as a caravan —have a discriminatory impact on Travellers’ lives.